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Power plant in the court

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The motion to add a power plant on the Williamsburg waterfront and the community’s nearly decade-long campaign to stymie those efforts took a significant step toward conclusion this week, as Appellate Court judges heard arguments from both sides regarding TransGas Energy (TGE)’s appeal of the State Siting Board’s decision to nix the underground plant.

Attorneys for TGE and the New York State Siting Board on Major Electric Generation Siting and the Environment presented 15-minute long oral arguments to New York State Appellate Court (45 Monroe Place) justices on September 9, focusing primarily on questions regarding the city and state’s authority over water and electric pipelines.

“Here, I think, we have a decision by the Siting Board, where they threw up their hands,” said John Dax, an attorney representing TGE.“The legislature hasn’t given us the guidepost to make these decisions go back to the city. Well, the city doesn’t have guideposts either.It’s a wide open standard.”

Dax argued that allowing the city to make its decisions would upend statutory precedents while John Graham, an attorney for the State Siting Board, argued that the city “maintains its traditional authority to control and manage property,” in the five boroughs.

“The city is a necessary party,” said Graham. “Its authority over streets and public property in this case is being challenged in this case.It means the city may be inequitably affected.”

The state Siting Board made a ruling in April 2008 against TGE’s proposal to locate a 1,100 megawatt power plant on the site between North 12th and North 14th streets. According to attorneys knowledgeable of the case, TGE has a right to appeal, but the burden to overturn an administration decision remains very high.

About one dozen Williamsburg residents who had been lobbying against construction of the power plant for the past eight years attended the Appellate Court hearing.Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning member Laura Hofmann hoped that the court would swiftly dismiss the appeal, though attorneys acknowledged that a decision could take months.

“[TGE CEO] Adam Victor has caused this community to waste valuable time, energy and resources on the ill conceived plan to build the TGE monstrosity power plant along our precious waterfront. All of this could have been used to focus on positive, welcome projects,” said Hofmann.

Victor was unable to be reached for comment regarding the appellate hearing, but wrote in a New York Post editorial on August 14 why he believes the city needs a new power plant.

“Think about it: New York City’s elevators, water supply, air conditioners, computers and backup servers, subways and traffic lights all depend on a reliable electricity supply,” said Victor. “Yet, even after terrorist attacks and blackouts, local politicians have put the whims of local NIMBY groups ahead of plans to even clean, green, state-of-the-art power-generating facilities.”

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